Fear, Awe, Reverence

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Psalm 111:10

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

This morning God is calling us to dive into the deep. I’m reluctant to go deep because I just finally finished harvest yesterday and I’m ready for a break. I want to just sleep all day and do nothing. I want to not think and just rest. I want to have fun and celebrate after I have rested, but God is calling: “Come closer; Come deeper; Immerse yourself in Me.” As I meditate it starts to make sense. In God is peace. Peace is relaxation as we let go of all our anxiety and we relax our tense muscles giving us rest. There is joy which brings celebration. Joy is that feeling of overwhelming goodness. As sense of peace along with celebration. So, I quiet myself and allow God to pull me deeper.

As I meditate on God’s word through our verse this morning the first parts jumps off the page. This is the diving point, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear is the word that seems to be the end of the diving board. Are we to be afraid of God? If that were so wouldn’t Jesus have come in fire and brimstone but instead Jesus cams as a little baby in a manger. Jesus didn’t lead an army against our foes instead He came in peace and love. That is why, I believe, so many of the Jews got it wrong. They were expecting Jesus to come in power, in brute force that would bring fear on everyone. But that is not who God is.

Let’s dig deeper. The Hebrew word for fear is ‘yirah.’ It is an interesting word. Strong’s concordance says it means fear, morally reverence. Some possible words to use is dreadful and fear. But God kept telling me there was more, so I went to the internet. You can find a lot of miss information on the internet but with God’s guidance and due diligence you can find truth there too. I found that yirah has three possible meanings but can also mean all three at the same time. It can be translated to fear, awe, and reverence. In our particular verse it means all three. The fear, awe and reverence of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Is it possible to have fear, awe and reverence at the same time? I mean they seem so different. We know what fear means, to be afraid. Should we be afraid of God? Everyone who encountered God in His glory trembled in fear. Encountering God personally can bring fear as He is so holy and we are sinners. His over whelming holiness will instantly contrast with our sinfulness cause us to shake and tremble. But God’s glory is also so awe inspiring. There is nothing as great and majestic as He is. We will experience awe at the same time as fear. All of this leads us to revere Him. We can’t help but have respect for His glory. If you have never experienced this then you have never quieted your self enough to see His glory.

It isn’t easy. Experiencing God personally requires us to put our selves aside. To stop running with the world and take time to connect with God. I have experienced it just standing outside looking up at the stars as they shine bright. Out here in the country you can see the beauty of the milky way. On the real clear night, you can see different colors in the stars and the milky way that just bring awe, then fear as you realize how small you are in comparison, then reverence as you are carried away in God’s creation. That is what yirah is.

You can also experience yirah in prayer. It requires us to be still, letting go of everything and just being in the presence of God in that moment. It means releasing your worries and thoughts. Just focusing on God’s presence and sensing His glory. We can do this by focusing on the birth of Jesus. Put yourself there as an animal or a shepherd. Now, see Jesus in His glory. Look past the stable. Look past the manger. Look into His eyes. Dive in head first as if they are a pool of soothing water. Feel that overwhelming love as the water covers every part of your body. Do you feel awe? Now look how deep this love is. As you look into the deepness of the water you will see what Jesus has done for you. Here come the streaks of red that flow like ribbons getting wider and entangling themselves. Then they wrap around you, pulling you deeper. Do you feel the fear? Our sin is great, yet His love is greater as these streaks of red become one and then start to fade away into a brilliant white. Your sins have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. That baby born for you to die for you. The over whelming love of grace. Do you feel reverence?

God is more than just stories that we read and tell. He is life, our life, eternal life. Forgiveness of our sins flow from His love to give us life. He is our everything. Let Him be your everything. Be still and let go and experience yirah: fear, awe, and reverence.

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Love

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

I can’t believe that Christmas is two weeks from today! Where has this year gone? I know that most of my fall has gone to trying to harvest, with break downs and frustrations. I’m still not done but I finally got the combine started on Saturday. Of course, nothing was open to take delivery, so I filled everything, and I have just a couple acres left to combine. I pray that the combine will start today.

Today God is reminding me that the Christmas season is all about love. Our pastor made the point in His sermon yesterday that Jesus was born for me, for you. Not for others in a generic way but for us personally. I was struck by that. Think about it. As Christians we are called to think about others, but our faith is to be personal. Often, we get that backwards. We think about ourselves and our faith is generic or institutional. In other words, often our faith is about others, what they think it should be and we never make the personal connection.

Love should not be generic. It is personal. It is special, but it is selfless. But leave it up to humans to make it selfish and impersonal, much like our faith has become. Anything that is selfish you can bet it is not from God nor is it for God. Our sin is more than rules that we break, it is the very act of being selfish. Our lives should revolve around God. Everything we do should be done with God in mind. If not in the forefront of our mind it should be in our subconscious. If we do this, love will flow naturally.

God’s love is so great that He sent His Son to die for us. That is the gift of Christmas. A baby born in our place to live in our place and to die in our place. The ultimate sacrifice given out of pure love. This means if we accept Jesus as our Savior He will live through us. Love should flow naturally from us because Jesus is living and loving through us. Yet here I am struggling in my sin, in my selfishness.

Life isn’t easy, and our faith isn’t easy as well. We have to continually die to self all day every day. This is a letting go of our desires so that God’s desires can shine through. It is dropping our control so that God can control us. If you have ever been controlled by someone else this will be the most difficult thing you will go through. To be honest none of us can let go without help. The Holy Spirit is our help. But we must accept the Spirit’s guidance and help.

What is holding you back? In order to let go we have to know what we are holding on too. Is there hidden pain that you can’t deal with? Let God help. Did someone hurt you in the past that you have not forgiven? Is there fear that you don’t want to face? If you have anger, you have fear. Anger flows from fear. Fear flows from lack of trust. There are some things we should not trust but we should always trust God. He will not let us down.

This Christmas let go of your fear. Trust God so that you can love unconditionally. The fear of hurt will hold you back. Loving a sinner will always give us pain but God’s love will be more than we need to get us through those times of pain. Focus on His love and that is all we will need.

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Be the Light

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “be the light.” I don’t feel like shining today. I just want to rant and rave and hit something as I am on the fourth day of getting no combining done because of break down. I am beyond frustrated. It is hard to keep myself from taking it out on others when I am this upset. I just want to be done with harvest, so I can get other stuff done. Que Jesus, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

How does this apply to my experience right now? I can be a light to those watching. The mechanics who are working on the combine. The neighbors who drive by, the people who ask if I’m finished. All of them see my reaction to struggle. What does throwing a temper tantrum accomplish? For some people they can get others to do what they want. But behind their backs those same people are working against you. So, what do you gain? A self-absorbed attitude that makes others not like you. It makes you feel in control but in reality, you are out of the loop like the rest of us. Honey will always attract more flies than vinegar. A good attitude will make people want to be around you and want to help you.

I am upset because of all the stuff I need to be doing, including stuff for church. Harvest this year has kept me from doing a lot of stuff which will set me back next year as well. But Jesus is saying trust me and shine my light for others to see. I’m trying to let go. It doesn’t help that around every corner is a reminder of what I’m missing out on. Lord help me. I want to trust but I’m struggling. Help me to let go and let you be in control. In Christ’s Name I pray, Amen.

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Our God

“I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?” Psalm 77:12-13

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

Have you ever meditated on Our God? Considered all His works and mighty deeds all around us? That is the direction the Holy Spirit is guiding me this morning. To be honest I’m not in the mood. I am very frustrated. I should have finished harvest on Tuesday, but the Combine broke down again. Should be able to fix it this morning. Hoping to combine hard to today and maybe finish, depending on how long it takes to get started. The Holy Spirit is calling me to focus on God and not on my problems.

Life is too short to get caught up in all that is wrong. Instead we need to focus on the good. When we focus on the good we are more likely to be the good as well. This means we help to fix the problems instead of complaining about them. Instead of allowing everything to get us down we help people which makes us the solution instead of the problem. That is the life Our God has created us for.

Look around you. Can you see God’s mighty deeds? Can you see past the sin and see the good? If you have never done this then you will struggle. When we are stuck in sin, sin is all we see. When we accept grace then we see grace. When we focus on God then we will see God.

Are you struggling with this Christmas season? There is a lot to make us struggle. There are many people who will be celebrating Christmas for the first time without a loved one. That is hard. We miss them. This is a time not to bury their memories but remember them and thank our God for allowing us to have those memories. Focus on the good. Be the good. This is a good time to get involved in helping people. If you are lonely, then visit the lonely. If you are hurting, help those who also hurt. Getting involved helping others will help us to put our focus on the good instead of the bad. Instead of blaming others for your problems, be the cure. See them for their hurt and want to help them. Have compassion by putting your self in their shoes. If you have similar back ground, then you will understand what they are going through and can help them to see the good.

Our God is amazing. He so loved us that He sent His Son to live like we do then die in our place to pay for our sin. We needed a Savior, so God gave us a Savior. That is how great our God is. That is what Christmas is all about. How can you apply this to your life? What can you give to show God’s love to others?

We don’t have to spend money to show love. We don’t have to go broke in order to experience Christmas. Our giving can be in time and our talents. Just being with people who have no one is a huge gift. Invite those who don’t have family to your family Christmas. What a great gift you will be giving. That is our purpose. To love as God loves.

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Songs of Joy

“He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

My heart is heavy this morning as my wife’s grandfather passed over the weekend. To be honest most of us see it as a relief. He had severe dementia to the point of not knowing anyone. Now his health is restored in Heavenly glory. We still miss him. To be honest we have missed him for a time now. My wife’s high school church youth group leader also passed over the weekend. Along with a friend’s grand uncle. Three people within our little circle. Not to mention the loss of friends in the month prior to this. It is hard to not be affected by this. So much death. Some were in bad shape and we knew the time was coming and some were a big surprise. Either way we can see that life is short.

In our mourning there are things to remember. God still loves us. Once again, I am reminded of perspective. We see death as bad because we lose someone we love. We will miss them but for God they are with Him. They have left the suffering and moved to glory. No longer affected by sin. As believers their sin was atoned for giving them the right to live with God in eternity. This brings some comfort. But there is the selfish part of me that still wants to hold on to them. As I have written before we have their memories to hold on to.

God has graced us with a chance to know love. Part of love is letting go, allowing our loved ones to move on to better things. This may be a friend, or family member moving away, or it may be losing loved ones to death. As believers we know that they are in a better place.

I don’t have all the answers. We still must go through the grieving process. There is no set time. Certain times of the year they will be missed for our life time. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays all bring reminders of those loved ones lost. This past thanksgiving, I choked up about my wife’s aunt no longer being there. It has been over two years since she moved on. I remembered the fun we had with her. How she would have loved the things we were doing. There were tears of sadness with the found memories.
Last night I went to the juvenile Center. Last month this was the time we lost our bass player. It was a surreal experience. I could almost hear him playing bass with us.

Christmas will be hard as we remember my wife’s grandpa. I can remember the stories he told and how he seemed to always have something to tell me about what he saw that had to do with farming. None of this means I am not happy that they are in heaven. I just miss them.

Now we move on. It isn’t easy. It will take time but with faith we have hope to see them again. With faith we can encourage those who experience the same thing we have. Our witness to others is through our shared experiences. We can help others going through what we have already gone through. We can relate to them and guide them to our strength, Jesus Christ. That is the beauty in suffering. Our tears can bear fruit. Our suffering can turn to songs of joy.

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Rejoice!

“In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.” Psalm 33:21

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

I can’t believe it is December already. Where has the year gone? I am so far behind, I’m not ready for December. Yet here we are. Before I can get depressed about it the Holy Spirit reminds me to rejoice!

Joy comes when we let go of our desires and accept God’s desires as our own. This means no expectations. I saw on Facebook a question yesterday that asked, “how many blessings have you missed because it came in an unexpected way?” Honestly, that is my life. I always anticipate. I want to know what is next, so I can be prepared on how to react to it. Yes, I’m a control addict. This means those things that come unexpectedly become burdens instead of blessings. I’m reminded of a quote “God’s will is either a burden that weighs you down or a vessel that carries you.” Which would you rather have?

Rejoicing is a response to trusting God. That is what our verse is saying. We rejoice because we trust. Do you trust? Then let us rejoice! It is supposed to be that easy. Yet I struggle. Harvest is going slow. Yesterday I had to take time to put cattle back in and fix fence instead of harvesting. They need to be on stalk ground, but I still have to put the electric fence up around it. I’m trying to finish harvest, so I can do that, but it is taking too long. So, I’m a little stressed. To top that all off I’m sick. I really don’t feel like rejoicing yet that is the response I’m called to do. That is the response we are all called to do. If I trust, I can rejoice even in the struggle. If I trust, I can rejoice even in the pain. Lord I do trust so I do rejoice in you.

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God Knows

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

God knows your pain. He feels your hurt, your loneliness, your shame. In His love and mercy He as redeemed you. The word for redeemed in our text is the Hebrew word ‘gaal.’ This word is used in reference to the kinship redeem in which a relative would by back property or marry a widow. In our verse it is even more personal. God makes us His children by paying for our sins. Then He carries us for eternity.

As Christmas approaches let us consider what it means. God becomes man so that He can show us how much He loves us. He experiences all that we experience. He can relate because He became us. But He didn’t just stop there. He payed our debt in full so no longer are we owned by our sin. In days of old if you couldn’t pay your debt you were thrown in jail. Think about that, how can you pay a debt in jail. It is hopeless for those who owe much. We are jailed in our sin. We can’t possibly pay that debt but instead of leaving us to our ruin God redeemed us. He bought us. We are now His. Christmas is a celebration of that gift. Are you worthy to receive such a gift?

Of course our answer is no. No one is worthy of such a gift but that is what makes it grace. A free gift given to the unworthy. This gift is lost in a society of entitled people. We too often think it is owed to us. It is hard to comprehend that we don’t deserve it. In our pride we believe we are worthy. In our pride we think we are not only good enough, but we are even better than that. That is the attitude of a lost society.

Our verse is followed by “Yet they rebelled…” (vs 10) Is this our story? Will we accept God’s grace or will we rebel against it? Will we see our need of a Savior and then accept that Savior? Will we repent of our arrogance? Will we repent of our selfishness? I pray the answer is yes. I won’t pretend that it is easy. I struggle with my pride daily.

God knows our struggle. Let Him help you.

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It is Time!

The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

It is time! That is the whisper I hear this morning. To be honest I have already written a whole page in which I rant about how Christmas is lost in all the marketing and greed or our world, but I deleted it all because it was written in anger. It is time to repent!

The Greek word that Jesus uses for repent is “metanoeo” It means to think differently. It is time to think differently. Are you lost in this world? Repent. Are you wondering what to do? Repent. Are you feeling the pressure of the season? Repent. Are you sad and lonely? Repent. Are you over worked and tired? Repent. Are you scared of what is next? Repent. Whatever your struggle or your situation now is the time to think differently. This is a call by Jesus to change. It is time to trust Him fully and live the life we were created to live. No more fear. No more excuses. No more thinking about yourself. It is time to live for Jesus.

Advent starts Sunday. This is the start of the Church calendar year but more important it is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. It is time to change our thinking, so we can fully understand what Christmas is all about. The gifts you are buying are to signify the gift God has given us. A baby with the sole purpose of dying in our place. The most unselfish gift of all. A Savior born in a lowly manger to a virgin. God left His throne to live in our place. To be our substitute. A sacrifice to pay our debt, to save us from ourselves. Is this the attitude you have while you frantically buy Christmas gifts?

Don’t let the expectations of the season pull you away from spending time with God. Meditate on what Jesus means to you. Think about what God did. Ask why? Feel His love. Know His peace. Find His joy. This isn’t done by frantically trying to do everything that this world expects you to do. Slow down. Reflect. Remember what we celebrate. Then pass it on to others. Let God fill you with peace instead of stress. Find joy instead of anger. Reflect on love instead of greed.

Read the Christmas story over and over again. Listen to what God may whisper to you. Reflect on what it all means. Ask who would do this for me? Understand that a God of love gave up everything so that He would not have to go without you in Heaven. Christmas means a promise fulfilled. Love poured out to us. Our lives saved. It is time! Time to change. Time to repent. Time to remember. Time to spend with God. It is time to believe the good news. It is time to tell everyone.

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Because I Love You

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

Read these verses over and over. What is God whispering to you?

This morning I ponder many questions but the big one is our verse today, “what is man that you are mindful of him?” to put it in my words why do you care about me? The whisper is ever gentle “Because I love you.” I ask these questions because I felt prompted to do so. There is so much going on. I’m still harvesting, things are behind that I need to address soon, and I am praying to God to help me figure out what to do first. Then it occurs why would He care? Then I am reminded of our friend who just passed from cancer. Why didn’t our prayers of healing work? Why did they work for my wife’s cancer but not our friends? If it didn’t work, why pray?

Many of my questions this morning are questions that I have asked in the past and that I have heard others ask while in the mist of struggle. Why pray? It doesn’t seem to work so why bother. I’ve heard this many times from people experiencing heart breaking struggle. I found out through my own experience that prayer isn’t about placing our order to God and then He dishes it out like a vending machine. Our God isn’t a vending machine God. He is a personal God. He is a sovereign God. He is a Holy God. A God of Love. A God of mercy and grace. A God bigger than our brains can comprehend. So why pray?

Let’s start with “Because He loves us.” God loves us so much that He wants a personal relationship with us. That is what prayer is. It is the conduit for our relationship with God. It is more than just memorized prayer. It is more than just praise and asking. It is our relationship with God. We tell Him everything like we would our best friend or a parent. We share our fun and our pain. We ask for help and guidance. We praise Him and thank Him. We listen for His response which comes in many different ways. We learn to hear His voice through experience.

So, why pray? Because God tells us to in the Bible. Because God wants us to know Him and prayer is how we get to know Him personally. Because Prayer is our personal connection to God. Here is where it gets deeper. What if our prayers seem to go unanswered? This is where I have struggled in the past and I see others struggle too. When we start out praying sometimes God seems to grant everything we ask. We experience things beyond our expectations and beyond our understanding and then one day it seems to go the other way. Our prayers seem to go unanswered or we don’t get what we want. Our health fails, loved ones die, we fall into financial problems. Now what? Where is God now?

This is a time of testing, but it is a time in which God is calling us deeper. Like a spoiled kid if we are given all we ask for we will become spoiled. Our relationship with God is shallow and we become entitled. Give me what I want period. It is one sided. It is selfish. God created us to be more. We are called to make His desires our desires. This means asking what He wants instead of telling Him what we want. It means trusting that He knows what is best. It means instead of asking for things, we ask for guidance. Instead of asking for healing, we are asking for peace in the struggle and pain. Instead of asking to change others we are asking to change our attitudes. We pray for others instead of ourselves. We spend more time listening instead of asking. We learn to be content in what God has given us. We thank God for everything. Ultimately, we find peace and enjoyment in just being in God’s presence having no need to say, think or hear anything. Just being.

So why should we pray? Because God loves us and wants us to know Him. Don’t expect to get everything you want in prayer instead expect to get everything you need. Expect to be changed. Our disappointments come from having the wrong perspective. See things from the perspective of God and life will make more sense. The only way to see God’s perspective is to know Him. Know Him through the Bible and prayer. Both are essential.

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Wait on the Lord

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Isaiah 30:18

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Mine was good. I ate too much, enjoyed time with family and was able to combine some corn with help. There was some sadness as another friend moved to her heavenly home. Her body succumbed to the cancer that invaded it. Now she is in peace.

Death is not a favorite subject for me, but it is something that we all will face at some time. Are you ready? I don’t think we can be ready all the time especially for a loved one’s passing. As for me, I can’t wait to see my Heavenly father and to leave the stress and hardships that life on Earth gives us, but I don’t want to leave loved ones behind to suffer while I go to be in paradise. I also don’t want to leave things undone. I want to do God’s will, finish the work He has started through me.

Our verse can be applied in many ways. First off God is gracious and wants to shower His grace upon us. The next part is hard to comprehend, “he rises to show you compassion.” I take it as a poetic way of saying that God can’t wait to show us compassion. As in it is saying that He wakes up each morning just to show us compassion. It is a reference showing how much Love God has for us. Then we have a reminder that He is a God of justice. This is a reference to the enemies of Israel, God will pay them for what they have done to His people. But this is also a reminder to us that God will bring justice and that we don’t have to take revenge. Let God take care of it. For blessed are those who wait on the Lord. In other words, blessed are those who put their whole trust in God by allowing His will to be our will. Allow God to do His thing instead of trying to take care of it ourselves.

It is hard. Life is full of hardships, disappointments and pain. Why do the good seem to be punished and the bad get off easy? Why do the good seem to die young and yet the bad live for a long time? When we have these questions, we are looking at things from the wrong perspective. Death is not a punishment for the believer. It is a reward. We are rewarded ultimate peace and joy. No longer must we suffer the pains of sin. We are taken home to be with our Father. To live long is not necessarily a reward. God wants all of us to know Him and He will give us ample time to do so. Once we die it is too late. The bad are given time to repent. But in order for the bad to repent they need people willing to share God with them. So, we have our purpose. Our purpose is to share God with others. To shine the light of God in the darkness.

We experience pains to not only guide us to God and to strengthen our faith but to also give us shared experiences so that we may connect with others. It gives us a message to share, a way to apply God’s word. Waiting for the Lord means many things. We wait for Him to reveal His plan for us. We wait for Him to deliver us from our current struggle. We wait for Him to teach us and to open the doors for our ministry. We wait for Him to come and take us home. The key is we trust God enough that we allow His will to be done instead of pursuing our own. Can you trust God enough to wait?

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